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Rydberg formula

The rydberg formula is used in atomic, molecular, and optical physics for determining the full spectrum of light emission from hydrogen, later extended to be useful with any element.


A piece of the original document detailing the Rydberg formula in 1888.

The spectrum are the wavelengths of photons emitted when electrons jump between discrete energy levels, "shells" around the atom of a certain chemical element.

The fomula was invented by the Swedish physicist Janne Rydberg and presented on November 5, 1888.

Rydberg formula for hydrogen

<math>\frac{1}{\lambda_{\mathrm{vac}}} = R_{\mathrm{H}} \left(\frac{1}{n_1^2}-\frac{1}{n_2^2}\right)</math>

Where

  • <math>\lambda_{\mathrm{vac}}</math> is the wavelength of the light emitted in vacuum.
  • <math>R</math> is the Rydberg constant for hydrogen.
  • <math>n_1</math> and <math>n_2</math> are integers such that <math>n_1 < n_2</math>.

By setting <math>n_1</math> to 1 and letting <math>n_2</math> run from 2 to infinity, the spectral lines known as the Lyman series[?] converging to 91nm are obtained, in the same manner:

<math>n_1</math> <math>n_2</math> Name Converge toward
1 <math>2 \rightarrow \infty</math> Lyman series[?] 91nm
2 <math>3 \rightarrow \infty</math> Balmer series[?] 365nm
3 <math>4 \rightarrow \infty</math> Paschen series[?] 821nm

Rydberg formula for any element

The formula above can be extended for use with any chemical element.

<math>\frac{1}{\lambda_{\mathrm{vac}}} = RZ^2 \left(\frac{1}{n_1^2}-\frac{1}{n_2^2}\right)</math>

Where



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